In the seventh episode of the eighth series of Doctor Who, the Doctor’s companions must make a terrible decision on the moon. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
Trigger Warning: For spiders/arachnophobia, claustrophobia.
Look, I think the science behind this episode is largely garbage (surely something terrible would have happened in the interim before the creature laid another egg???), but I think the story in “Kill the Moon” is so relentlessly good, frightening, and challenging that I’m willing to look beyond it. I don’t think I watch Doctor Who for the science anyway, and I just needed the barest of logic to immerse myself in this episode.
And it really wasn’t that hard. I have no idea where “Kill the Moon” was filmed, but this genuinely looked like the moon, and the alternating terrors of claustrophobia and wide-open expanses were used brilliantly. I alternated between feeling trapped and overwhelmed, from feeling unsettled by the creeping threat of the arachnid bacteria to being disturbed by the moral choice that the three humans were left with. In short? I was utterly transfixed by this episode.
It’s obviously not without a few flaws. The astronaut team introduced here – Lundvik and her two partners, whose names I don’t even remember – aren’t developed at all. Lundvik reminded me a lot of Adelaide from “The Waters of Mars” but without nearly the same depth of characterization. We get a sense for Lundvik’s desperation in the wake of the impending destruction of Earth, but that’s her sole motivation. In the end, I’m okay with that, especially since that pits her against both Clara and Courtney.
For me, that’s why “Kill the Moon” is such a monumental experience as a Doctor Who fan. Watching those three women decide the fate of the world was electrifying to me. In a genre that is so overwhelming male, I found it refreshing and uplifting to watch an episode of this show that centered so heavily around these three characters. And who stole the show?
I mean, let’s just state how fucking fantastic it was that a young black woman was the one who fought the hardest to save the life of the creature within the moon and saved the entire world in the process. Characters like Courtney are historically comic relief within this medium, and that’s kind of the role she played in “The Caretaker.” But she’s given a full story within “Kill the Moon,” one that challenges the Doctor’s behavior towards her and posits that even young people like Courtney, who are constantly told to grow up and wait until they’re older, can make a huge difference in the lives of others. The Doctor speaks down to her; Lundvik is consistently condescending towards her. It’s Clara who listens to Courtney, supports her, and does whatever she can to make her feel comfortable. And what happens when Courtney is supported and made to feel like her own person? She shines. She’s the one to discover how to kill the spider bacteria!
As much as Courtney makes “Kill the Moon” as invigorating as it is, I also want to compliment Jenna Coleman, who just absolutely destroys it here. I’ve really grown to respect and adore Coleman’s work on this show, and I don’t think she’s ever been stronger. I adored that she was so fiercely on Courtney’s side throughout the episode, but I also appreciated that she’s become the main critic of the Doctor. As I said in the last review, this show is now forcing us to accept that traveling with the Doctor isn’t just a hazard. It can actually be a horrible, demoralizing experience. Many of the techniques the Doctor used in the past to help his companions grow and become better people feel tired and destructive now, and Clara is willing to call him out on that.
But why now? What was so upsetting to Clara about the Doctor in “Kill the Moon”? It’s not like the Doctor hasn’t tried to get his companions to make important decisions on their own. His thorny attitude isn’t new either, and I feel like Clara has gotten used to this. But adapting to Twelve is not the same as accepting every action of his. When the team learns that the moon is an egg and a new species of creature is about to hatch from it, the Doctor presents them with this problem and then refuses to help. Now, I believed him at first. I believed that this was one of those gray moments in history where the Doctor couldn’t see the outcome of a given event. I understood why humans had to make a decision for their own planet. However, the Doctor came off like a disinterested parent. Despite that Clara ultimately made the right choice, at what cost did it come? Was it worth it for her to spend that last hour on the moon in complete, senseless fear? Was that fair? Of course, she and Courtney performed brilliantly, and I bet the Doctor expected as much. The whole bit with the lights was haunting, y’all. But I loved that Clara refused to make a decision for the whole planet without consulting them. Well… until she actually did, that is. Still, her heart was in the right place. She helped save the world and the creature at the same time.
In the end, I felt like Clara’s outburst was wholly justified. There’s nothing wrong with growth, but the Doctor forced Clara into a situation and a decision that she was not comfortable with. His deliberate distancing of himself has become damaging to her. I found it fitting that Clara sought out Danny’s comfort, and it called back to the promise he made to her: she would come to him when the Doctor pushed her too hard. So what the hell was Danny’s bad day? What did he do???
So, like I said, the science here is just… weird? And I ultimately didn’t care. This was a vicious episode that frightened me and challenged me. Bravo, Doctor Who.
The video for “Kill the Moon” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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